Colorado’s smaller ski areas find a niche despite competition

Still strong demand “for folks who just want to drive up, park close to the lift, get their runs in, bring their lunch.”

John Meyer
The Denver Post
Skiers head up the Lenawee Mountain lift at Arapahoe Basin on their reopening day May 27, 2020.
Andy Cross/The Denver Post

The old Lenawee lift at Arapahoe Basin, a slow three-person chair installed in 2001 that took skiers from mid-mountain to the summit, was replaced this past summer by a high-speed six-person lift. The old one didn’t wind up in a junkyard, though.

It was shipped to Sunlight Mountain Resort, a ski small area near Glenwood Springs that will begin running it next summer. The Lenawee equipment will replace Sunlight’s Segundo lift, a double that was built in 1973 — and is the oldest operating chair in Colorado. Before it became Segundo at Sunlight, it was lift 1A at Aspen Mountain and dates back to 1954.

“We’re calling this year ‘Sayonara to Segundo,’” said Sunlight marketing director Troy Hawks. “If you want to ride the ’57 Chevy of the ski industry, come and get it now, because we’re going to park it in the garage and put something newer in.”

Arapahoe Basin, a medium-sized area just 4 miles from Keystone — which is one of 41 resorts owned by behemoth Vail Resorts — didn’t remove the old Lenawee because it was worn out. It wasn’t. They didn’t replace it to attract more skiers, either. Resort officials say they simply wanted a faster lift with more uphill capacity to improve the skier experience.

It’s just one example of how Colorado’s scrappy small and medium-sized ski areas, many of them independent, find ways to compete against the corporate Epic and Ikon pass resort alliances that have dominated the industry’s season pass sales for years.


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